The Jack-in-the-Box

JackintheboxI wonder, at times, if one ever gets to the point of feeling as though they have been around forever.

To me, it feels as if I’m always astonished at how fast each year has gone by. Like one day I am making plans and setting goals for the new year and the next, I’m spending the day after Christmas getting rid of all the mess that Christmas left behind.

The bows, the empty boxes, the bits of wrapping paper, and the crumbs of edible goodies that were satisfactorily enjoyed by all.

The remains of celebration, family togetherness, and joy. The untainted, pure delight of happy children, wide-eyed with smiles that hold more truth than most things this world contains. The evidence of an event we had all been looking forward to all year.

Assembling new toys for the kids and struggling to find or create space for them; Space that is only imaginary now. Space that once seemed infinite. When the place was empty, before love and family moved in and filled every nook and cranny with the evidence of our existence.

I wonder if there will ever be a time when the days just seem to slow down. A day when I’ll feel like everything is done; Like all is well and my job is complete…if even for a single day.

Routine is just that, routine…but they say change is constant. Perhaps the only thing that really changes is the face staring back at you when you look in the mirror. The children that once were so small you could cradle them in one arm, who will eventually outgrow you. The loved ones that pass, leaving an aching void in your heart and home that can never be filled.

At times, I imagine myself in this box. There is this giant hand that I can see from the window as it winds a handle on the side of that box. It grips the handle tight, winding until the handle clicks, which causes all the commotion and growth in that box. When this giant winds it up, we move around in that box.

I wake up and make breakfast for the kids. I clean up. I entertain and we continue to do as we do until the box handle stops. We go to bed and rest up for our next day of motion and life, when the box handle winds up to a click again.

Sometimes I am able to pop out of this box. Things aren’t so predictable then because it’s always random; It’s always a surprise.

I explore the world outside of the box. I meet new people, make new friends, catch up with old friends, and exhaust myself, in every way possible, as much as possible. Then it ends. The giant hand pushes down on me, and down into the box I go, until the next time I spontaneously rise to the surface again.

Eventually, after days and days of living this existence in this box, the box itself, becomes worn. We are worn and ragged inside as well.

I wonder, at times, if the days will seem to slow then. When the vibrancy of life and love has subdued with age and loss. The loss of youth, of children who have grown and gone, and the loss of those we loved the most.

Is it then, and only then, that I will feel like all is well and my job is complete? Perhaps, it is only time that will tell.

The Silence & Time

The Silence & TimeSometimes I feel like the room is spinning.  The noise of my daughter’s Littlest Pet Shop YouTube videos playing on the TV, the sound of Baby Genius songs blaring from the Laptop, Ryan singing Christmas songs using the wrong words to amuse the kids, and himself…and me, with a million things on my mind, in the midst of it all.

Every five minutes, my daughter asks me for something and every 10 minutes my son latches on to my leg, desperately screaming for me to pick him up. He grabs for my hand to lead me upstairs to let him play with water in the bathroom sink.

Every morning, after the kids are fed I clean up the mess from the night before.  The dishes from dinner and breakfast, the toys scattered across the floor.  Clothes from the six outfits my daughter had tried on the previous day to wear for an hour, that later ended up in some room, on some floor.  Crayons and markers with caps missing, dried up and useless from being left out all night.

The shoes.  So many shoes.  Shoes in every room, in closets, under beds, behind couches and chairs and on the stairs.  Eight feet reside in this house and we have enough shoes to supply a small village.  We trip over them and get angry.  Then we continue walking, leaving them behind to trip over them again and again.

Where are the socks?  I have no idea.

Strange pieces of what could have possibly once been a bagel or toast on my daughters movie shelf; Only discovered when my baby boy walked up munching on it.  Random bits of noodle stuck to his leg. The case of the missing sugar cookie solved when he is found in a corner, silently chewing up his sugary discovery.

I’m beginning to think he knows what he’s doing.  That he stored those treats away, like a squirrel stashes nuts away for winter.  Where did those things come from?

My 7 minute showers interrupted by little hands with even smaller fingers, poking through the crack under the bathroom door.  Little fists against wood… pounding, pounding, pounding until my 5-year-old decides to open the bathroom door and they both come crashing in excitedly, trying to push each other aside to get ahead of the other.

They pull the shower curtain open and start undressing to join me.  Eyes filled with joy with only the prospect of a shower or bath with mommy;  Exuding the same level of excitement they would attain from chasing after an ice cream truck on a hot, summer day.

I hurry to finish, wrap up in a towel, turn the shower into a bath and let them bathe…as I sit on the toilet with the seat covered to supervise; Dripping wet and cold, with only the thought of how I almost made it through an entire shower without them this time.  I decide every time that the next time I’ll be quicker.

The trips to the store.  Ashley dancing through the isles, eager to find something she can ask for when she promised she wouldn’t.  Jackson standing up in the cart every chance he gets, wondering why he can’t wander around to walk just as his big sister does.  Strangers who are shopping, stopping to look at things with their carts left in the center of the isles and their bodies blocking the spaces next to it.  It’s a very dis-pleasurable experience, grocery shopping.

Sometimes we get a chance to be alone.  I shut things off when no one else is home.  It gets so quiet in here that I don’t know what to do with myself.

Ryan sits with his notebook and writes lists and lists of things down.  His notebook, which is one of a thousand.  Stacks and stacks of Ryan’s notebooks, in closets, on shelves, on the floor by chairs and beds, and in the car.  Notebooks, notebooks and notebooks… everywhere.

Where are the pens?  I have no idea.

The silence.  Then and only then, it makes me ache for the noise of the children screaming.  It beckons me to wish for sounds of the kids playing, or to hear them laughing.

The time.  The time then, leaves me lost with feelings of no direction.  No child asking me for something.  No tug-of-war over a toy to break up.  No one to take care of.

When they are gone, only silence and time is left behind.  Silence we choose to not fill, and time we don’t use effectively.  Instead we just are…as if we have no other purpose.

Behind the Camera

Image

Alright, here we go. Here I am! For those of you who may be thinking, whoa!? Why is this woman posting this collage of herself? Is she starved for attention? Is she full of herself?

Well, the answer is no and no. I am critical of myself just like all of you other ladies. When I look in the mirror, I see all of my faults.  The reflection of the person looking back at me, is likely not the same person others see when they look at me.

The fact is, I’m just sick of being the woman behind the camera.  The one who never appears to have been part of any memorable moments.

In 3 days I will officially be a year older, and I have come to realize some things this year in terms of aging.  You see, I’m a mother of two youthful, beautiful children.  They have changed my perspective on life in a lot of ways.

I have so many friends who are so critical of their looks that it saddens me.  When I look at them, I don’t see what they see.  I think they are still youthful and beautiful.  They don’t like having their picture taken because they feel too fat, or too ugly.

I see all these comments in social media sites like Facebook where people (mainly women) are putting down those who post pics of themselves on their page.  We identity these pics as “selfies” and that term has been associated with negativity.

Come on ladies!  I realize there are, in fact, those people out there who need that sort of attention and validation from others, but there are those that do not as well.  If a 500 LB woman posted pictures of herself similar to the ones I have posted above, what would you think?  My guess is that we would be happy that she is confident enough to do that.  It’s funny how our thoughts can change based one particular persons appearance.

I know many people saw the article posted in the Huffington Post (because the post circulated around Facebook) about a mom who decided, that despite her self-image insecurities, that she would make a point to include herself in photographs for the sake of her kids.  There was someone on Facebook recently who had a relative pass away.  When they were going through her photographs looking for ones of her for the funeral showing, they couldn’t find any.

 

It is clear that many women avoid pictures because of insecurities regarding their self-image.  It is clear that many women avoid posting pictures of themselves on social media websites because they don’t want to be “that girl”- the one who is narcissistic because she posted a “selfie”.

One thing I have come realize over the years is that there aren’t a whole lot of men who run around ready to snap photos and capture moments worth remembering.  I noticed when looking through my daughters old photos that I was not in many of them.  Even now, I have so many pictures of my daughter and my baby boy and I’m running out of memory on all my gadgets.

My point is that I am the photographer in my world.  I’m the one who thinks to whip out the camera or the phone to capture moments.  That’s why I haven’t been in many of those pictures.  I was always the person behind the camera.  So, unless you want to start harassing the man in your life to start taking pictures of you, the kids, or you and the kids together, you are going to have to continue taking them yourself.

This is why I have decided that I won’t be afraid anymore.  I won’t be that person who lives in fear of those who will think negatively about me for having posted a picture of myself on a social media site.  I won’t be ashamed because there’s nothing wrong with it.  Even having posted the pictures above really makes me nervous, but in reality…why should I be?

It’s just me.  I’m fully clothed and those photos are head-shots and there is nothing risqué about them.  Some day, I imagine that my children are going to collect all the photographs of me to keep for themselves.  I want to make sure they have plenty to remember me by.

Sure, right now it’s easy to notice every little thing wrong with the way we look, but some day we may wish we could turn back the clock.  Someday, when I’m old and gray…I hope to look at those pictures of myself and remember how youthful and lively I was.  And, when I’m older, my hair has turned gray, and my skin has wrinkled, I doubt these pictures will make me think about how horrible I looked when I was in my thirties.

 

 

 

DIY Holiday Wreaths

DIY Wreath

Christmas will be here before we know it.  In about two weeks, we’ll be gathering with family to celebrate.  I have almost completed my gift shopping, but there are a few DIY projects I have yet to complete.

For the past few weeks, I have been working on some extra-special gifts, hand-crafted by yours truly to add to what I am already giving some of my family members. Among a few other things (of which I cannot reveal just yet), I have completed my Holiday Wreath project.

Let me just tell you that this has been really fun, but most importantly, very simple! I’m not going to go through the step-by-step instructions with you.  There are plenty of blogs and websites that do that already.  If you need to see it for yourself, below is a video showing you exactly how to make a curly paper wreath.

What I found that was so great about these DIY curly paper wreaths is that the possibilities are endless.  You can make these things look however you want and each one actually does look completely different from the next one.  All you have to do is select different color schemes and different prints, decide which will look best together and there you have it…something unique, and something hand-crafted by you (which, I think, makes it extra-special!).

Take a look at the wreaths I have made.  I worked on this over the course of a couple of weeks in my free-time (which is limited because I have two small children).  I will say though, that if you have the time to work on one with no interruptions, you could finish in less than two hours I should think…and even watch a movie while doing it.

So, if you have a person, or two you have had trouble buying for, you still have time to make them a great holiday wreath.  Here is a tip though, the tutorial will tell you that you must have double-sided decorative paper.  While I understand that it makes sense to have it since the paper is curled which means you’ll see both sides of it throughout, I don’t feel it’s completely necessary.  I looked at two different craft stores and that paper is hard to find.

For all five of my wreaths I used one-sided decorative paper and they look just as lovely.  If you decide to give this project a try, have fun! I’m sure it will look great.  Happy Holiday crafting!

 

10 Things My Children Have Taught Me

  1. 10 Things my Children have taught me  That these three, 4-letter words:  Love, Hope, & Fear mean more than you ever realized prior to having children.
  2. That we, as adults complicate the simplest of ideas or processes.  Children teach you how simple things can be.  For example, my daughter says quitting smoking should be easy.  She tells my parents that all they have to do to quit is to stop buying them and stop smoking them.  You can’t really argue with that, huh?
  3. That even when placed in an empty, padded room, I can assure you that they will still manage to find a way to get hurt.
  4. They can manage to break, disappear, squeeze through something, spill or color on something in the time it takes you to reach down to pick something up.  You have to keep a constant eye on them.  I have even been working on blinking one eye at a time to reduce the amount of “accidents” that happen.
  5. They will have to urinate or have a bowel movement the second you pull that soiled diaper off them.  It will either get on you, your floor, or in the fresh diaper you just put them in.
  6. That you are not allowed to relax, do anything for yourself, eat anything by yourself, without involving them in some way or being asked for something.
  7. They will always love you.  Even when you tell them no or tell them they are wrong.
  8. You will always love them.  Even when they tell you no or tell you that you are wrong.
  9. That life is full of ideas and concepts even you have never thought of, or had long forgotten.  Children open your eyes and mind to a world you have forgotten; The world through the eyes of a child.
  10. That you are stronger, more patient, more understanding, more selfless, and more loving than you think you are.

Of course, there is so much more that my children have taught me.  I couldn’t possibly list everything and as time progresses and they grow, I am learning new things every day.

We often times focus on everything we need to teach our children and don’t even realize all the things having children has taught us.  Making a list such as this one can really help put things into perspective, and can add a little humor to parenthood as well.

What have you learned from your children?  What has being a parent taught you?

10 Reasons a Holiday Birthday Stinks

Holiday Birthday

Let’s start by saying that I was born 5 days before Christmas.  Sorry to my mother who spent Christmas in the hospital due to a cesarean and an infection after surgery, but I think it’s safe to say that I was still a great Christmas gift!

I understand that since I’m in my 30’s now, birthday celebrations may seem pretty irrelevant, but that hasn’t always been the case.  As a kid, I remember waiting for people to show up for my birthday parties excitedly, only to receive a turnout of none to one or two guests.  It was a bummer, to say the least.  At least I had a lot of siblings with birthday hats on and whistle blowers to celebrate with.  Thanks guys!  I know you had no choice because we lived together, but we still had fun.

Even though I’m now in my 30’s, there are still times where I think about arranging an outing with friends and family to celebrate, but decide against it because it ends up being too complicated.  Many people still have to work the days before Christmas Eve and those that don’t and live out-of-town are already planning on making the trip out for Christmas and do not want to have to come early and stay for nearly a week for that.

Anyways, I have compiled a list of the Top Ten Reasons having a birthday during this Holiday season stinks.  Here we go:

  1. You can’t compete with the birth of Jesus Christ
  2. If you live in the Midwest, there are usually winter storms that prevent people from going out for such a celebration
  3. People are broke from Christmas shopping
  4. You get gifts that serve as both your birthday gift and Christmas gift, all-in-one
  5. You get Christmas cards in the mail that say Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday too
  6. No one shows up to your parties (because of being broke, planning on Christmas travel, or there is bad weather)
  7. If you do get a birthday cake, it has a Christmas Theme
  8. People sometimes forget about your birthday because of the focus on Christmas
  9. Winter in the Midwest brings frigid temps and illness, so you often times end up sick on your birthday
  10. When you do plan a birthday outing, you feel like it’s a burden or nuisance for others

Well, there you have it.  These are the Top 10 reasons I feel that having a birthday around the Holiday season stinks.  Although birthdays can become something of little relevance as one ages, it should still be a cause for some type of celebration; Even if it’s something small, like having breakfast made for you that morning.

After all, at any age the mere fact that you were born and have made it through another year of life is a great reason to celebrate for anyone!  Happy Birthday to all those who are December or January babies! I hope those closest to you make an effort to make it special in some way, whether you’re turning 7, 30, 60, or 93 this year.  Money does not have to regulate every celebration.  Remember that the smallest things can account for a lot too!

 

 

Reflection of This Year

I have been trying to look to days passed as this year nears its end.  I want to take the time remember all that has happened this year.  At times, this can be a tedious task; like thumbing through file after file in a room as big as a warehouse, filled with boxes that are not labeled.  Which ones contain the memories of this year?

Time seems to disorganize such things as we get older and busier, especially if one has children.  Children, and their super-charged growth, superhuman reserves of energy, and infinite curiosity.  This is all I remember, for the most part.

Questions asked and answered.  Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners made.  Cupcakes baked, birthday’s celebrated, gifts bought and opened in delight.  Little, soft bodies bathed.  Hair combed, brushed and braided.  Bottoms powdered and diapered.  Little bodies clothed.  Lullabies sang, children slumbered, keystrokes, alarm clocks, sunrises and sunsets.

Dishes washed, carpets vacuumed, toilets scrubbed, floors mopped, clothes freshly laundered and put away.  Seasons came and went.

Winter snow for making snowmen.  Spring-time planting of purple mums.  Summer fun in the backyard sprinklers and barbeques were always fun.  Fall came, leaves covered the grass.  My daughter and niece buried in piles of orange, red, green and brown vegetation, laughing as the sun set.  Temperature has grown colder, we tell the kids to stay inside.

Holidays celebrated and family time.  Stories told with laughter.  Arguments over silly things, the stress of daily hassles.  Friends who called for advice, or just to simply think out loud.  Loyalty and freedom, choices that were made.  Bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes, a whole lot of Bandaids.

This year has brought so many things, I’ll never see again.  A baby boy who learned to walk, a little girl who made her first best friend.  My heart is filled with love, and teary eyed I get.  To think of the days past this year; Ones I hope to never forget.

Take time to reflect on the things, that have happened throughout the year.  Remember the big events as well as the small.  You will never have quite the same year again.

Why I Do or Do Not – A Study

Prepare for the longest post in history!

Some years ago, before I got married, I was conflicted by something that many people do not even question.  After I had decided to marry the man who is now my ex-husband, I had a conversation with him about retaining my surname after marriage as opposed to taking his last name.  This discussion caused a huge conflict.  It wasn’t so much a conflict with him, but with his family members and even a few of mine.

The result was that, although I was in serious reluctance, I went ahead and conformed to the societal expectations as well as the expectations of certain family members, and took his last name after we married.  I was left with some level of resentment afterwards and because of that I administered and performed a sociological study on this topic.

Have you ever wondered how this “tradition” began or why we continue to follow it?  If you have, this will answer those questions.

Modern Society’s View on Women’s Naming Choice: Why I do or do not?

The tradition of women adopting their husband’s surname after marriage began during a time when women were viewed as the property of a man, their husband, who was the head of household.  Society has endured dramatic progress in the women’s movement for equal rights and research of naming trends has continued to fluctuate.  Research has shown naming choice is dependent on age, education level and having children.  My survey questionnaire was an attempt to find the reasons people in today’s society continue to follow this tradition and their knowledge of how the tradition began.  The results I obtained show that the majority of those surveyed do not know the history behind a woman taking her husband’s surname, but still believe in and partake in this tradition.  It would be interesting to conduct this research on a national level and expand the questionnaire/survey began by adding more specific questions in an attempt to discover specific variables pertinent to the continuance of this tradition.

HISTORY OF THE NAME

In England, before the 10th century, people were only identified by their first names, which were Christian names such as Matthew, Peter and John.  Last names, otherwise identified as birth names or surnames, were created by the description of a person’s trade or who their father was.  For example, the article, “A Woman’s Freedom to Choose her surname: Is it Really a Matter of Choice?”, written by Esther Suarez, states the following, “Surnames arose as descriptive terms.  Thus, Benjamin, son of Peter would be called Benjamin Peterson, Matthew the Blacksmith became Matthew Blacksmith.  And John, who lived in or near a manor house, was “John Hall” (1997).  The tradition spread, making it common practice during the 13th and 14th century in England for married women to take their father’s surnames.  However, after certain laws were put in place that viewed husband and wife as being one person, women were then expected to take their husband’s last name.  These laws addressed men as head of household and provided them with primary ownership of property obtained before and throughout his marriage.

Before the 1800’s, in the United States, all possessions a woman had previous to a marriage became her husband’s upon marriage.  The journal of Women and Language v.28 (no. 2);1-11 includes a study titled: “Women and Surnames Across Cultures: Reconstituting Identity in Marriage”, written by Diana Boxer and Elena Gritsenko states the following:

“Women themselves were clearly seen as property, just as slaves were in that era.  Obviously, both groups took on the surname of the head of household to which they became attached” (2005).  “Married Women’s Property Acts” were later passed  in the mid-19th century in many states that gave women the right to retain property held before marriage (Boxer and Gritsenko 2005).

An early women’s rights advocate named Elizabeth Cady Stanton, became one of the first women to consider the right to retain one’s birth surname.  Despite how unusual this was at this point in history, Elizabeth kept her birth surname as a middle name after marrying her husband, Henry Stanton.

Although there are not many records of marital naming selection in the United States dating back as far as the 1800s, we do know that despite society’s expectation that a woman will adopt her husband’s name after marriage, there was at least one woman on record who did not.  In the year 1855 Lucy Stone, an antislavery and female suffrage crusader, married and became the first known woman in the United States to retain her surname (Goldin and Shim 2004).

Women have been expected to take their husband’s surname after marriage since before the 19th century.  The act of women adopting their husband’s surname began for reasons many in today’s society are completely unaware of.  What some may wonder is why society still holds the overall expectation of this practice and also, for what reason is this practice still being carried out?

RESEARCH STUDIES

Previous research has found that the majority of women who opt to keep their surnames after marriage can be categorized into specific groups.  Society’s attempt at equality for women, which was most apparent in the 1970s, has caused changes in this practice, leaving many to wonder how family members may be affected by a woman’s choice of her last name.  Furthermore, for what reasons are the majority of women in today’s society, including feminists, still adopting their husband’s surname after marriage?

A research study performed by Diana Boxer and Elana Gritsenko from the Academic Journal Women and Language titled, “Women and Surnames Across Cultures: Reconstituting Identity in Marriage”, is an analysis of how women in the United States and Russia compare when facing the surname issue after marrying.  This article uses an analysis from the perspective views of cultural anthropological linguistics.

To come up with the quantitative data for this study, Boxer and Gritsenko surveyed 174 women in the US and 103 women in Russia who were located in different regions, had various education levels, and were of multiple age groups.  The questionnaire type distributed included written comments with the rest of their data being obtained from oral interviews.  What the survey results showed in relation to reasons why women were continuing the tradition was that it was done more so to gain a sense of unity as a family, and also as a sign of commitment to their husbands and families.  The results also showed that women with children tend to keep their husband’s surname after divorce.  Women with higher levels of education were more likely to retain their birth surname, usually for professional reasons (Boxer and Gritsenko 1995).  Boxer and Gritsenko label this as “professional identity”.

It is interesting to find that most women’s choices in Russia were based on tradition, as opposed to a woman’s personal choice or preference.  Another interesting result obtained through this study is that 12% of those surveyed said they didn’t even think about the option of keeping their own last names after marriage because they feel that women are simply supposed to take their husband’s name.  In other words, these women did not even consider what they may prefer at all.  They simply did what was expected of them.  This study also portrayed a similar trend that can be seen in many other research articles pertaining to this topic, which is the notion that woman’s education level plays a huge role in her choice to retain her own surname after marriage.

It appears that women who are more accomplished in education, and in their professional lives, make up the highest percentage within the group of women who opt to keep their own surnames after marriage.  This trend can be seen in nearly all of the research studies related to this topic.  Laurie K. Scheuble and David R. Johnson (2005) performed a study titled, “Married Women’s Situational Use of Last Names: An Empirical Study”, which was published in the Academic Journal Sex Roles, Vol. 53, Nos. 1/2, July 2005, which basically discusses the trends in naming choice in relation to specific situations.

This study found that much of the reasoning behind situational last name use is derived from an identity conflict within that person and society’s expectations of gender roles.  For example, women who chose to keep their surnames after marriage would end up addressing themselves by their husband’s surname when they were speaking to their children’s teachers or their husband’s family, but would then address themselves as their own surnames at work and with their own families.

The means of distribution for this survey was via mail and went out to 600 married women: With 388 of them already having a name that was not the same as their husband’s last name.  An interesting result obtained by this study was that the women who interchanged how they addressed themselves in specific social situations the most, were those with hyphenated names.

It could be said that the choice to hyphenate one’s own surname with that of their husband’s surname, is a way of compromising one’s own identity with society’s gender role expectations.  With a hyphenated name, a woman can still retain her own identity around certain groups in her life and address herself as her husband’s last name in other situations.  Many of these women did so because it seemed easier for them to go along with that expectation.

Once again, society’s expectation that women should adopt her husband’s last name upon marriage has clearly developed into what most perceive as “tradition”, or more specifically, “gender role tradition”.  A study performed on a two-generational, national level, was performed by David R. Johnson and Laurie K. Schebule as well, to see if generational influence affected naming choice at all.  This study titled, “Women’s Marital Naming in Two Generations: A National Study”, published in the Journal of Marriage & Family 57.3 (1995): 724-732, surveyed 929 married persons and 180 of those married persons grown children.

The results of the study, as with many other similar studies in pertinence to this topic, confirmed that most women end up taking their husband’s last name upon marriage; In fact, only 1.4% of the main group surveyed didn’t use a conventional last name.  There was a shift in their children’s generation though, because that number increased to 4.7% of the offspring group who chose to retain their surnames.

One important bit of information acquired through this study is that although there was a slight increase of women retaining their birth names upon marriage, between these two generations, 95 out of 100 people in recent society is still following the tradition.  Another important result obtained from this particular study was that there does seem to be a correlation between the naming choices a daughter makes based on her mother’s choice.  Johnson and Schebule found that it was 5 1/2 times more likely for daughters to choose nontraditional names if their mothers had chosen nontraditional names.  What some may wonder is whether or not the majority of mothers studied had grown up in the 1970s, during the struggle for women’s rights, and if that had any affect on those that chose the non-conventional names.

In regards to non-conventional naming choices, it seems likely that because the number of college graduate women has increased over the past 30 years, that would then cause the number of women who opt to keep their surnames to increase as well.  After all, data collected from every research study pertaining to the retention of surnames after marriage clearly shows that education level plays a huge role in this decision.

To get an idea of the fraction of women who retained their surnames and the reasons behind that retention, Claudia Goldin and Maria Shim (2004) performed a study titled, “Making a Name: Women’s Surnames at Marriage and Beyond”, published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives 18.2 (2004): 143-160.  The means of researching this were obtained through comparing patterns of surname retention between three sources.  The New York Times wedding announcements, Harvard Alumni records, and Massachusetts birth records.

Their research found that there was a rise in name retention by U.S. college graduate women.  The retention rate rose from 2 to 4 percent during the mid 1970s and by 2001, it had increased to a tad fewer than 20%.  It appears that despite the boom of name retention that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, that many women had reverted back to tradition, and the number of retainers has tapered down or remained within a common percentage range over recent years.  One common factor throughout all of this data, in comparison to other research, is that women who retain their surnames after marriage, also addressed as “keepers”, by Goldin and Shim, mainly consisted of the Harvard Alumni.

It is interesting to see that although laws have changed to verify that women have the right to choose their last name after marriage, that most have continued to adopt their husband’s surnames anyway.  Goldin and Shim explain that although tradition plays a huge role in the decision, there were other laws that made it hard for a woman who kept her surname in the 1970s.

An interesting fact that is seemingly unknown to many people in today’s society, is that there has never been a law in any state within this nation, that specifically states that women have to take their husband’s last name upon marriage.  The assumption that women should and will take her husband’s surname upon marriage became the expectation, and society created laws that made it hard for women who opted to retain her surname.

Esther Suarez wrote an article published in the Journal Women’s Rights Law Reporter Vol. 18 no. 2, (1997) titled, “A Woman’s Freedom to Choose Her Surname: Is it Really a Matter of Choice?  In this article she states:

“In the eyes of the common law, a husband and wife become one unit upon marriage, and that unit is given only to the husband’s identity…In the past, women have been denied that right based on a court’s determination that it was not in the best interests of their children.”

In today’s society, women do not have to request a change of name after divorce through the court system, but there still exist laws that make the process of name changing difficult.  After marriage and taking her husband’s surname, a woman signs a certificate to establish her name change, then she has to take that marriage certificate to the social security office to request a new social security card, and to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to request a new driver’s license or state issued identification card with her new last name.  A woman also has to notify the Internal Revenue Service of this change (Suarez 1997).

Among many other changes, if a woman has bills in her name or credit cards, she also has to call those companies to have her name changed, of which, are usually companies that require proof of identity to make such changes.  Another potential problem, is that once a woman is married and has her husband’s surname, anything she and her husband acquires to establish credit, will only be recorded under his record of credit history, unless they specifically add her name to everything.

Basically, a woman has to deal with a lot of different companies for a process that should be quite simple, being as it is also highly expected in society.  The fact of the matter is, that despite the hassle women endure to adopt their husband’s surname upon marriage, the expectation to do so is so powerful, the majority of women still choose to do it anyway.

Suarez states that a woman loses herself when she changes her last name.  “Her maiden name is the name that has identified her up to the point of marriage.  Research has suggested that we do tend to relate an identity of ourselves with our name.  Or, in other words, our identities become strongly associated with our names.

Judy Jones (1991), a reporter for The Independent Newspaper London, wrote an article on December 18, 1991 about the correlation of child naming choice and adult sex roles.  This article is titled, “Girls names shape adult sex roles: The annual conference of British Psychological Society opened at the City University in London yesterday”.  Although this study did not pertain specifically to surname choices after marriage, it does pertain to naming choices in general, and the effect the choice of names seems to have on adult gender roles.  What Jones reported was based on a research study performed by psychologists Carol Johnson and Helen Petrie, who distributed questionnaires to 255 students at the University of Sussex.  The results obtained from this study suggest that women’s personalities are, in fact, affected by even their first names.  This is because there are differences in how society perceives certain names.

Some names are considered more masculine, some more feminine, as some are even considered unisex names that can be used for either gender.  This can be seen even in baby name books.  In almost all of the baby naming books available for sale in the United States, first names are grouped into sections by feminine names, masculine names and unisex names.  The results suggest that women with more feminine names are perceived as more feminine by society, or are at least expected to act more feminine.  The women with names that could go either way (male or female), tend to have more masculine gender role traits than those with highly feminine names.  It is very interesting to see how research suggests that even a first name can affect the way a woman is perceived in regards to society’s expectations of gender roles.

With regards to society’s perception of names pertinent to gender role expectation, many may wonder how the women in today’s society who opt to keep their surname upon marriage are perceived by others.  Furthermore, although it is even more unusual for a man to take on a hyphenated name upon marriage, there are those in today’s society who do so.  It would be interesting to know how those men are perceived by society as well.

A study titled, Perceptions of Married Women and Married Men with Hyphenated Surnames, published in the Journal titled Sex Roles vol. 46, p. 5-6, was conducted by Gordon B. Forbes, Leah E. Adams-Curtis, Kay B. White and Nicole R. Hamm as an attempt to find out if and how married men and women with hyphenated names are perceived differently by those in society.

They surveyed 197 middle-class college students by way of a questionnaire that focused on personal character attributes or qualities, and contained questions that used descriptive words, such as masculine and feminine.  The results obtained by this study found that the majority of students surveyed perceive married persons, male or female, with hyphenated names as being better people in general, since they scored them high in positive marital attributes and personality attributes.

If this can be said to be the general consensus of how those with hyphenated last names are perceived in recent society, why then are there still so many women adhering to the expectation or tradition of adopting their husband’s surname upon marriage?  If so many in society associate positive character traits to those who choose non-traditional names, such as hyphenated names, why aren’t the majority of them doing the same?  These questions, among others similar to it, are the basis for my own research study based on this topic.

MY METHODS AND RESULTS

I conducted a research study using a questionnaire with 10 statements that could be answered by level of agreeableness or disagreeableness; 0 meaning the participant strongly disagrees with the statement and 10 meaning the participant strongly agrees with the statement.  Section 2 of the questionnaire included five yes or no questions.  The participants I surveyed are all people I know, and are within an age range of 21-63 years of age, are a variety of race and ethnic backgrounds, and have various levels of education. There are fourteen total participants, of which an equal ratio of male to female participants were surveyed; 7 male and 7 female.

The statement section of the survey contains questions that ask for the level to which the participant believes in the tradition of a woman taking her husband’s surname, how the participant views women who opt to retain their surname, how strongly the participant believes in children taking their father’s surname, the level at which they believe or disbelieve a man’s name is more important than a woman’s name, and the level at which they feel a husband’s feelings should be considered in a woman’s naming choice.

I included these particular statements because I wanted to see if there was any relation between the level of traditionalism and how the participants viewed or perceived those who are more unconventional.

Previous research done regarding this topic suggests that women who chose unconventional last names could be perceived as being less serious about their marriage, disrespectful and less committed.  My results showed the opposite of that perception.  Although these participants were generally more conventional in naming choice, they do not feel women who opt to keep their surnames are less committed and do not believe those marriages would be any more likely to end in divorce.

I selected statements that were intended to make the participant delve deeper into the topic, in an attempt to get the truest answers.  I achieved this by being particular about the order of the questions and by including one common question, multiple times with a bold face word that distinguished the statements meaning.  I wanted to see if the level of agreeableness or disagreeableness fluctuated at all as the statements became more direct and intense.  For the most part, the answers stayed within a consistent range, but I did see some fluctuation of a point or two as the survey progressed.

Before I conducted the survey, I had the notion that most of the younger generation, those in their 20s and 30s, was likely to have less traditional views on the subject, and that the older generation would be strictly traditional in their answers.  This is an assumption I made based on the research I had read previous to the survey.  What I found was that the majority of the participants, including the youngest ones, were more traditional than I suspected.

In fact, the youngest participant surveyed was 21 years of age and scored with high agreeableness to the majority of the statements pertaining to the belief that a woman should take her husband’s last name.  This participant also agreed more than any other participant on the statement that said that a man’s last name is more important than a woman’s last name, and that the statement claiming that it is disrespectful to a man and his family when his new wife chooses not to take his last name.

She verbally mentioned after answering these statements that she felt that since a man cannot experience pregnancy or childbirth, which creates a type of natural bond between mother and child, then it is only fair that the father should at least be able to give his children his last name as a means to create a bond between father and child.

At first I thought this reasoning was unusual, since I have not seen it in any of the research I have read.  Then I realized it was similar in some ways.  What I did gather from other research conducted on this subject, was that many women chose to adopt their husband’s surname upon marriage because they saw it as the means of showing they care about a man’s feelings, and that it shows her level of commitment to him and their family.  If the man felt strongly about wife and children taking his name, then she felt it was only right to do so.  The woman is usually the one willing to make the change because women are the ones expected to do so by society.

The oldest participant, who was 63 years old, yielded similar results to the youngest participant, excluding the fact that he didn’t relate disrespect or level of commitment to women who opt out of taking their husband’s last name upon marriage.  The youngest participants answers actually suggest she is seemingly, more traditional and conventional than even the oldest participant in the study.  That was something I did not expect to see.

It was surprising to me that of the 14 participants surveyed, only three of them answered in a way that suggests that they are overall, less conventional than the rest of the participants.  Since I know these three people personally, I know that two of them are women in their late 20’s, the third is a male in his mid 30’s and that all three of these participants are college-educated.  It’s interesting to see this because although my research study was performed on a much smaller scale than those of which I had read about, I could see that education level truly does seem to play a role in the process of naming choices, and the overall idea of traditionalism in general.

The results of this survey also suggests that despite the fact that the general consensus of the participants did not feel a man’s last name was more important than a woman’s last name, did not feel it was disrespectful to a man or his family for women to keep her name, and did not perceive women who keep their name as less committed or feel those marriages were less likely to last, most of them still felt a woman should take her husband’s surname upon marriage.  This is why I included the yes or no section in the questionnaire.

The yes or no questions were more direct and intended for the purpose of just that; obtaining a direct yes or no answer without the option of playing it safe.  I wanted to find out why the majority of people in today’s society, including the participants of my study, still choose to follow society’s expectation that a woman will take her husband’s last name upon marriage.  This section of questions also left room for me to have a bit of an oral discussion with the participants regarding reasons behind their answers.  What made that easy was the fact that all 14 of the participants willingly explained their reasons to me without even being asked to.

The first question in this section is the “kicker”, meaning it kick-starts the mind and leaves people wondering, “Hey, why am I following this tradition?”  Question one sounds simple but is, in actuality, a huge question:

Do you know the history of why women started taking their husband’s last names after marriage?

Most would think that since the good people of this country have been following this tradition for centuries that they would have some type of knowledge as to why they do it, but the interesting thing I found from this study is that the majority of those surveyed have absolutely no idea how it began.  More specifically, only 5 participants answered yes to this question, but I only account for 4 being correct in their answer.  The 5th participant gave an answer that was not completely accurate by stating that the tradition began based on biblical reasons since man is stated as head of household in the Bible.

The other participants who did not know were curious for information after being asked that question.  Now, all of a sudden, they wanted to know why this practice started.  Because of this I verbally told them the history behind this tradition and continued to the next question, which is number 4 that asks whether or not they believe a woman should take her husband’s last name after marriage.

At this point in the study the participants know the history behind it all so I suspected their feelings regarding this question may change, even if I had asked it 2 different times already.  The results overall show that knowing the history didn’t matter as much as I suspected it would.  People still felt it was still tradition and is still expected by society and verbally expressed this to me by saying things such as, ” Oh well, that’s not the reason we do it now, I do it because that’s how it’s supposed to be and that’s how it’s been.” One of the participants even stated that she could not think of a single woman, even women she knew at work, who didn’t take her husband’s last name after marriage.

Lastly, the question pertaining to life being easier when all members of a family share the same last name yielded interesting results as well.  The majority of those surveyed said it does make life easier.  Their examples were for doctors visits, school records, and also to show the extent to which a person is related to one another.  Those that said it did not make life any easier expressed that there are so many children born out-of-wedlock or who have divorced parents now, that it really doesn’t matter whether you share a common name anymore.

They feel society has changed in regards to divorce and an increase of single mothers with children, that sharing a common name with your child should not be the reason a woman takes her husband’s last name or gives her children their father’s last name.  The oral discussion consensus was basically wrapped around the idea that society expects this from women, most husbands expect this of their wife, and that they do not see this practice as a sign of inequality.  They instead, simply do what they’re expected to do because it seems easier to do so and, because it’s an expected tradition.

Summary and Reflection

A historical society established man as head of household and his surname was used to represent his authority over family and property.  Despite the fact that women are still, in many ways, struggling to gain equality in a society that has seemingly preferred men over women for centuries, the increase in the number of women choosing to retain their surname after marriage in the 1970s appears to be coming to a standstill.

With research suggesting that a mere 20% of American women in today’s society are retaining their surnames upon marriage (Goldin and Shim 2004) it’s safe to assume that it can only mean that the vast majority of them are continuing the tradition that began from and continues to be a societal expectation.  A similar trend can be seen from the results I obtained from my own study.

It could be that most women just don’t perceive the name change as a sign of inequality.  The research I reviewed, as well as the study I conducted, suggests this theory may be a logical possibility.  Many women view the act of taking their husband’s name as a sign of commitment, as a representation of closeness or unity, and largely because they have or plan on having children who have or will have their husband’s last name.

I used much of what I learned from the research articles and studies I read to come up with some of the questions and statements made in my own study.  I felt it was interesting to use the data and information collected from previous research in an attempt to get reasons for why those particular results or trends occur, and also to see if I would gain similar results on a smaller scale.

For example, much other research suggests that women feel it is easier when a family shares the same last name, so I asked this question at the end of my survey.  The majority of the participants in my study answered yes to this question.  Many of them expressed orally, that without a doubt, it is much easier when all members of a family share the same last name.

One of the participants works in a dental office and said the reason she answered yes to this question is because she knows how complicating it is to search for records of someone who has a hyphenated name or children with names that didn’t match the insurance policy holders name.

Another participant, who is unmarried with three children, stated that she knows it makes life more difficult when mother and child have different last names because her children ask her all the time why her name is different from their father’s name and their own last names.

What I really felt was interesting about the entire project was the fact that only three of the 14 people I surveyed knew the history of women taking a man’s surname upon marriage, yet the majority of them still strongly believe and partake in this tradition.

This is an important sociological topic because society created the expectation that women should take their husband’s surname upon marriage, which arose from gender inequality and helped to form gender role establishment.  Despite changes in laws, this tradition based on a society created expectation is still prominent in today’s society.

Even after women have fought and continue fighting for equality, many of us still simply adhere to what is expected of our gender role.  It seems clear that a changing society in which there is an increased number of children born out-of-wedlock, an increased number of divorces, and more women who have built a name for themselves in the professional world, has created a sense of gender role confusion for some.

For others, following the tradition of adopting a man’s surname after marriage, and giving that name to any children fathered by that man, is perceived as the easiest option.  What is most interesting to me is that a woman truly believes that it’s easier to change her name, considering the fact that upon taking her husband’s name, she has to drop her name and follow a list of procedures with several different state and government agencies, as well as credit agencies, among others, to establish her new identity.

This is probably the longest post in the history of blogging, but my research and the study I did deserved no less.  I hope some of you learned something new.  Pretty interesting that this tradition has carried on this long, despite knowledge or lack of knowledge as to why it began in the first place.

Thank-FULL

We survived hosting our first Thanksgiving.  It was actually really great. We could not be more full;  Full of food and full of happy thoughts.

Ryan brought the turkey over to his parent’s place this morning and they took the neck and innards out.  He said it was embarrassing because everything but the neck was bagged inside and it was super quick and simple.  No one told us these things, but now we know!

The only thing I really had to cook today was the turkey, which took about 4 hours.  The rest of it I had prepared last night and all it needed was to be warmed up in the oven or boiled on the stove, which made things very simple.  I am still exhausted though, but it’s worth it.  Dinner was excellent and I’m SO glad I didn’t ruin the turkey.

My brother called and surprised us with a visit.  I hadn’t seen him in over a year.  He lives in Tennessee with his family because he is stationed at Fort Campbell.  He is about to get deployed for another year so it was really nice to see him.  I’m pretty thankful that he took the time to visit while he was in town.

After Thanksgiving dinner had been eaten and cleaned up, I baked a cake to celebrate my dad’s birthday, which is tomorrow.  Since he is in town from Kentucky and everyone was already here, it only made sense to celebrate it today.  I was already pretty tired when I decided to bake it, and that was apparent when I nearly ruined the thing.

I was flipping the cake over to get it out of the pan and onto a cake sheet and when I lifted up to pat and release the cake, my oven mitt slipped off and I dropped the pan back onto the cake.  I frantically tried to pick it up, but the pan was still hot to the touch so I jerked my hand away and knocked over a drink that was next to the oven on the counter.  The drink then spilled onto the counter and pooled where my phone was sitting.  I then quickly picked my phone up, dried it off and cleaned up the spill.  The cake ended up cracking and crumbling so in order to keep it together, I started caking on the frosting I had made, even though the cake hadn’t completely cooled yet.  This caused the frosting to end up slightly runny (but it filled in the cracks), so my sister and I stuck some candles in it and quickly lit them so we could hurry and eat the thing.  It was really good, even if it didn’t look so perfect!

Anyhow, everyone but my daughter and me are in bed now and she is ready to crash.  Hoping everyone had a great Thanksgiving and made some really great memories today.  Although we don’t have everything we want in life, it does feel good to feel truly thankful for everything we do have.  This is because what we have is priceless (family and friends), and these things are truly irreplaceable.

To those of you who partake in the Black Friday madness, good luck. I have never been brave enough or wanted anything bad enough to shop on Black Friday.  The news makes it looks so crazy, so be careful and have fun!

Give Thanks and Have a Coin Toss

This year will be the first year that Ryan and I are hosting a small gathering of family for Thanksgiving.  Last year, I had invited my family over.  I was so excited at the thought of preparing an entire Thanksgiving meal, myself, for the first time.  Everyone ended up having other plans so we didn’t end up making anything at all.

Now that there are going to be some guests over for dinner this year, the worry has set in.  I am a decent cook and I love trying new recipes, but this whole turkey thing scares me.  I have been calling my mom to ask her questions about what I have to do to the turkey to prep it for roasting, and the instructions she gave me were very intimidating.

I’m going to have to reach inside the body cavity of this thing and pull its innards out.  The heart, gizzards, turkey neck and whatever else is in there.  I don’t think I can do it!  Well, I can of course, but I really don’t want to – not that part! I handle raw meat all the time, but I’ve never made anything I had to pull organs from.  The thought of this disgusts me.

In an attempt to get out of having to perform this necessary step, I told Ryan that I would prepare the entire meal myself, and that his only job would be to handle the turkey innards extraction portion.  He said no way.  It seems he wants to do it even less than I do.  I have been trying to barter with him about it all day.  I think I’m getting close to having him agree on having a coin toss to decide who has to tackle this chore.  We’ll see.  If the coin toss idea doesn’t work, perhaps I can think of some other type of incentive.

Aside from the anxiety over the turkey, I think the rest should be fairly simple.  Since our gathering will be small, I am not getting too crazy with side dishes.  I think I’ll settle with the basics; Mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing for the turkey, homemade dressing as a side (a family recipe), a big pot homemade noodles (also a family recipe), dinner rolls, and a green bean casserole (that my sister is bringing). My mom always made two dressings; the regular and an oyster dressing.  She also made sweet potatoes (but I don’t like those), and cranberry salad (which was good, but I still don’t favor it).  Because of those reasons, I won’t be making those items.

There is this pumpkin pie crunch recipe I came across in October that I’ve been dying to make.  I considered getting the ingredients to make it for Thanksgiving, but I decided against it.  I think I have enough work ahead of me already, especially since this is my first attempt at preparing everything myself.  My dad is bringing some pies.

I remember all those years I watched my grandma and mom wake up early and slave away in the kitchen while the men sat around drinking beer and watching football.  The kitchen counters were always covered with pot holders and ingredients, and it was always hot in the house since the oven had been on all morning.  Since there was only one oven with two racks, mom would have to push things around to squeeze a dish in around the turkey.  It was like a jigsaw puzzle of food.  I am going to have to come up with a game plan on how this is going to go when I cook this feast as well.  My guess is that the turkey must go in first and I’ll prep the rest as that cooks.

It is going to be crazy.  I have seen how crazy it was for my grandmother and mother.  It’s like there was all this time, preparation, sweat, and work put into this feast and we were all so excited to finally sit down and eat.  We would eat until we were stuffed and carry on with whatever we were doing before while the same people who spent days and hours prepping and cooking were back in the kitchen doing dishes, putting food away, and cleaning up everyone’s mess.  Thinking back, I don’t think we gave the women (mom and grandma) enough credit for things such as Thanksgiving dinner.

I know the point of Thanksgiving is to give thanks, but remember that it’s not just for the food.  Remember to give thanks to all those who took the time, put in the hard work and made the feast that you are thankful for.  These people put in a lot of work to make sure everyone can sit down together and feast on some, hopefully, excellent food.

Only two days to go!  Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.  If this is your first time preparing this feast yourself,  good luck to you!  As for me, I’m going to get Ryan to have a coin toss now.